As a New Jersey DWI lawyer, clients often ask me whether they can get a work license or a hardship license after a DWI conviction. My first answer is that I don’t want to have to get to that situation, and we will do everything we can to prevent that. Our goal is to do the best job that can be done under the circumstances of the case, and, first on that list is to seek to have the DWI dismissed.
It is important, however, to explore all options in the context of a DWI defense, and to understand the implications of all aspects of the prosecution and potential outcomes.
The unfortunate answer to this question is that there are no work licenses or hardship licenses in New Jersey after a DWI. Many states have this option, but definitely not New Jersey. So, during any suspension time imposed in New Jersey, the motorist cannot drive in the state of New Jersey until his/her driver’s license privileges are restored in New Jersey.
Certain drug offenses in New Jersey provide for a waiver of the license suspension when hardship can be shown, but not for a DWI conviction.
It is also extremely unlikely that New Jersey will ever enact a law allowing work licenses or hardship licenses after a DWI conviction, because of the public policy concerns. I would be very surprised if a legislator would propose such legislation, since that would appear to be taking a position “soft” on DWI in New Jersey.
On the contrary, it makes absolute sense to have a provision for a work or hardship license in New Jersey. This very densely populated, heavily traveled state, does not have an adequate infrastructure for public transportation for people who need to get around without a driver’s license, and who do not live and do most of their activity in an urban area.
Losing a driver’s license as a result of a New Jersey DWI conviction has far reaching effects, not only on the convicted driver, but on his/her family and community. Allowing someone to drive to work, school, the grocery store, for religious services, as well as other essential activities would not lessen the burden of the overall conviction or restriction on licensing. There are additional safeguards in place for that restricted driver, such as installation of an ignition interlock device.
As a New Jersey DWI attorney, I am not in favor of DWI, but I am in favor of protecting my client’s rights. While the law says that a driver’s license is a privilege, not a right, I want to protect that privilege, as well. Society, on the whole, should want to do this, also. Restricting or even eliminating a first offender’s ability to provide for his/her family and be a productive member of society should be revisited by the law makers. Allowing a work license or hardship license would not be “soft” on DWI, but favorable to everyone, as long as the convicted driver did not abuse the situation. That is yet another concern – that someone on a restricted license would commit another offense, or worse, injure someone in the process. Work licenses and hardship licenses are properly utilized and administrated in most other states. That should be the case in New Jersey, also.
But, because it isn’t, it is extremely important to hire the best DWI lawyer possible in challenging the DWI charges.